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MOMS TALK: Drugs, Alcohol, and the New Social "Hosting" Ordinance

Did you know that the legal limit for drivers under the age of 21 is NOT .08, but only .02?

The teen “alcohol-drug-use” topic is nothing new, so I thought I was up to speed on the pertinent facts, but was surprised to learn about the lower blood-alcohol limit for drivers under 21 when it comes to a potential charge of DUI.

A couple of beers might be enough to reach that limit, according to Chris Harnish, Drug and Alcohol Counselor at . Harnish and School Resource Officer Chad Schumacher of the spoke about laws and recent trends at last week’s February 8, PTA meeting.

Officer Schumacher said the recent on Mercer Island grew from a concern that it is hard for police to monitor underage drinking parties that occur in private homes—sometimes when you knock on the door it gets quiet and the lights go out. You can gather license plate numbers and alert parents, but the law provides law enforcement an additional resource in these situations. A couple of parents in the audience said they too are using the existence of the new law as an additional argument in their cautionary conversations with their teens. One parent told her daughter, “You don’t want to be responsible for getting me or another parent in trouble.” 

Schumacher said the police will use discretion and review the circumstances before they decide to forward a case to the City Attorney, who will ultimately decide who to “charge” with this non-criminal civil infraction. He said that the ordinance covers parties of “4 or more” persons under the age of 19.

Harnish talked about products that attract underage drinkers because they combine fun flavors with high alcohol content. Smirnoff makes “Smirnoff Ice,” hard liquor flavored like Fluffy Marshmallow, Whipped Cream, Mango, Pineapple and Coconut. It’s a mixed drink in one bottle.

Another example is Four Loko, a drink that comes in a colorful can and fruity flavors, blamed for sickening 9 Central Washington University students who were hospitalized after a freshman party in 2010. At that time, the product was taken off the shelves in our state because it was believed that the high caffeine content masked the effects of the alcohol. Four Loko is back, but without the caffeine, in flavors like Fruit Punch and Blue Raspberry. The problem with Four Loko, said Harnish, is that one 24 oz bottle has about the same alcohol content as 6 beers. So if someone has two of these, they may think they’ve only had two drinks, but it’s really more like having 12 beers. “Black out in a can,” is what some kids call it, Harnish added.

Another new detail:  206 275-7955 is an Anonymous Tip Line at MIPD, where calls go immediatley to voicemail and you can leave an anonymous message. 

A final parting note, the experts also said kids report that it’s easier to get Marijuana on Mercer Island than alcohol. Whew, we’ll save that topic for another day.

Hopefully these additional details will make conversations with your teens and pre-teens more effective. If you know what’s going on, your kids may feel your concerns and advice are more relevant.

jeff February 16, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Myteensavers counselors treat teen addicts. You won't believe the shock on parents' faces when you tell them that they may have been their child's drug dealer. Unattended pills in the home is an invitation to experiment. Kids are not afraid to try high powered opiates, once someone tells them how great it felt. But when that costly high goes away, teens turn to cheaper heroin. Teen addicts often say that parents don't enforce the anti-drug message and that home drug testing may have stopped them from trying in the first place. Don't let experimentation lead to addiction.
Abe Ableton March 02, 2012 at 04:50 AM
This social hosting ordinance, and the overall concern for teenagers on Mercer Island in general, is a giant waste of time. I only hope that some groundbreaking event happens soon that causes all the catty parents of Mercer Island to focus their attention on something that is actually productive. It makes me sick to see how much control you want over your children. You have entirely too much free time to spend brainstorming new ways to patrol and corral them. We're no different than any other high-income community except that we, for whatever reason, feel the need to spend endless resources, both time and money, on this kind of garbage.
jeff March 02, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Mr ENABLETON, We need to protect these kids, and as parents it is is our responsibility to raise raise them into adulthood.

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